Sunny Land Tours Explores 'Ancient Civilizations'

Reed Travel Features

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Ancient Civilizations is the name of the extensive two-week Syria and Jordan program being offered by Sunny Land Tours.

The tour begins in Amman and features a full-day trip to the Biblical town of Madaba with its sixth century mosaic map of Jerusalem in the Greek Orthodox Church, Mount Nebo overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.

From Amman, clients travel overland south to Wadi Rum, the desert setting for "Lawrence of Arabia," and to Aqaba on the Dead Sea, with an overnight and time for swimming and water sports at the resort.

Two hours north, a day and a night are spent at the Nabataean city of Petra, with a return the following day to Amman via the Crusader castle of Kerak.

The route north to Syria passes through Jerash, founded by Alexander the Great, yet known as one of the most complete Roman settlements anywhere; the next stop after crossing the border out of Jordan is Damascus.

Tour members leave the next morning for an overnight in Palmyra, Syria's grandest Roman-era treasure.

A tour of the former capital of Queen Zenobia's empire includes a walk along the Great Colonnade and a visit to the Temple of Bel, the theater and the museum.

Dura Europas is the next stop, a settlement high on cliffs above the Euphrates River and built by the Macedonians in the second century B.C.

Farther down river is Mari, an ancient walled settlement with houses, temples and a palace.

Following an overnight in Deir ez-Zor, travelers depart for Aleppo, visiting the desert castles at Halabia and Rasafah en route. Two nights are spent in Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city, with a vast souk that is one of the great bazaars of the Middle East.

City sightseeing includes the Citadel, and outside of town participants visit the pilgrimage site of Saint Simeon the Stylites, where a fifth century saint spent 37 years in prayer atop a six-foot pillar.

On the two-day trip back to Damascus, tour members visit Apamea, whose temples, gates and extensive wall were built in the second century B.C.; Ebla, where a vast archive of clay tablets of an early Semitic language were found; Hama with its enormous ancient water wheels; the grand Crusader castle of the Krac des Chevaliers, and Maaloula with its Monastery of St. Takla and the Convent of St. Sarkis.

Two nights are spent in Damascus, where sightseeing includes the National Museum, the Citadel and the Umayyad Mosque and bazaars.

The splendid Roman theater at Bosra is the last stop in Syria before crossing back into Jordan, where the final night is spent in Amman.

Departures from the U.S. aboard Royal Jordanian are scheduled for Fridays, and the cost per person, double, including air from New York to Amman, is $3,395 through May; $3,495 June l to Aug. 31 and Dec. 10 to 24, and $3,185 September through March 31 (except Dec. 10 to 24).

Also covered are deluxe accommodations, breakfast and dinner daily at hotels and lunch on full-day tours, sightseeing by private car or minibus with guides, transfers, tips and baggage handling.

To book, call (800) 783-7839 or (201) 487-2150.

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